Category: Data

Milton Bradley Omni (1980 – early 1980s)

The Omni was, in effect, an audio game console using 8-Track tape cartridges to supply the pre-recorded questions and answers along with some data (not audible to the user) to control the scoring indicators. There was no video output.

It was introduced by MB Electronics in 1980, a division of the Milton Bradley company that had introduced the Microvision handheld video game console the previous year.

Up to four players could play the Omni system at any one time, and each player had a row of 11 buttons displaying numbers, colours and clusters of letters to type in the answers.

Most of the released cartridges contained quiz-type games, and there were four programmes to choose on each tape (in the same way as audio 8-Track cartridge). Cartridges came with a dust cover to protect the tape when not in use, and users were advised not to touch the exposed tape, as the data contained on the tape would be more sensitive to dust and fingerprints than a standard 8-Track.

Fewer than 15 cartridge titles were created for the console, and perhaps partly due to its high price, it doesn’t appear to have been very successful.

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Fujifilm PhotoDisc CD-R (2004 – )

Launched in 2004, The Fujifilm PhotoDisc CD-R is essentially a standard CD-R disc with a black substrate layer that claims to protect the data from ultra-violet and solar radiation. It also uses a different dye (phthalocyanine rather than the usual cyanine) in the recording layer, which should offer more resistance to heat and sunlight.

Although they are reported to be very reliable, for archival purposes gold archival CD-R discs are probably better.

Despite the name, the discs can be used for any purpose that a standard CD-R can be used for, and don’t just store photos.

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Bee Card (1985 – 1986)

The Bee Card was a ROM card of roughly credit card size, developed by Hudson Soft as a lower cost way of distributing games for use with the MSX home computer architecture. The MSX standard was developed by Microsoft and had been around since 1983. MSX machines had one or two ROM cartridge slots, and a Bee Card could be used in one of these by using a BeePack adapter.

The design of the Bee Card was later adapted to become the HuCard for use in the NEC TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine. In this form, it was slightly thicker and had 38 pins as opposed the 32 pins of the Bee Card. The Bee Card had a maximum capacity of 32 KB.

Only 11 titles were released on Bee Card for MSX systems, some by Hudson Soft themselves along with some from other software developers, and the Bee Card was only produced until 1986.

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Yamaha Music Cartridge (1995 – late 1990s)

Yamaha introduced Music Cartridges in 1995 for use in some of its PSR range of entry-level and mid-range keyboards. These are not to be confused with an earlier Music Cartridge format from Yamaha that was used on its TYU-30 model in 1986.

The Yamaha Music Cartridge for PSR models were ROM cartridges containing either fully-arranged songs, or additional styles to add to the keyboard’s library, and were inserted into a slot on top of the keyboard. Six models of keyboard were able to accept Music Cartridges – PSR-320, PSR-420, PSR-520 and PSR-620, launched in 1995, and the PSR-330 and PSR-530, launched in 1997.

Later models of Yamaha keyboard used 3.5-inch floppy disks.

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1.8-inch hard disk drive (1991 – 2014)

The 1.8-inch hard disk drive was introduced by Integral Peripherals in 1991, and had up to two platters for a maximum storage capacity of 320 GB on the last model introduced by Toshiba in 2009.

The 1.8-inch form factor of hard drive was not popular at first, despite being the same form factor as the PCMCIA card, making it suitable for use as removable storage on laptops with a PCMCIA slot.

It eventually came to be used for internal storage in compact laptops such as netbooks, and in the original version of the Apple iPod, later known as the iPad Classic, which was discontinued in 2014.

The 1.8-inch hard disk drive is no longer produced, having been replaced in the kind of devices that would have once used it by solid-state drives.

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8-inch hard disk drive (1979 – late 1980s)

The 8-inch hard disk drive was a magnetic storage device mainly used in minicomputers, and was first introduced in 1979 eventually replacing the 14-inch disk pack and the earlier 14-inch ‘Winchester’ sealed disk drives.

The first 8-inch drive was the IBM ‘Piccolo’ drive, using six 8-inch platters and offering 65 MB of storage in a sealed unit to reduce the possibility of dust contamination. The smaller size also meant the drive didn’t need to be a standalone unit.

8-inch drives were produced from 1979 by a number of different manufacturers, but in 1980 Seagate introduced the 5.25-inch hard disk drive aimed at the microcomputer market, and it was the 5.25-inch hard disk drive that was introduced in the IBM PC-XT in 1983.

However, 8-inch hard disk drives continued to be used in minicomputers for some years.

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5.25-inch ‘flippy’ disk (1976 – mid 1980s)

Flippy disk was a nickname given to single-sided floppy disks that had a second write-enabled notch cut into the sleeve so that the second side could be written to by a single-sided disk drive. Generally, these were 5.25-inch minifloppy disks, but 8-inch floppy disks could be modified in the same way, and this was possible because most of the openings on the sleeve of the disk were duplicated on both sides. It was a way of doubling the capacity of a floppy disk at a time when disks were expensive, although of course they had to be removed from the drive and turned over to access the extra capacity.

When the 5.25-inch minifloppy disk was introduced in 1976, all drives were single-sided. Double-sided drives were introduced in 1978, but suffered from early reliability problems. It wasn’t until 1982 that double-sided drives were supported by IBM PC-DOS in version 1.1. Drives such as Apple’s Disk II and the Commodore 1541 remained single-sided.

The second write-enabled notch could be made by hand, or special ‘disk doubler’ rectangular hold puncher could be bought to do the job. Flippy disks were also sold ready-made, and software was distributed on flippy disks that might have different programs on each side, or the same program but for different operating systems. Flippy disks sold for use in double-sided drives needed to have two index holes on either side of the hub hole.

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Open reel instrumentation and data logging tape (1949 – 2000s)

Magnetic tape was first used for data logging and instrumentation recording in 1949, when Jack Mullins installed modified Ampex Model 300s at Point Mugu Naval Air Station and at Edwards Air Force Base, both in southern California.

Tape has been heavily used since then for military, industrial, government and research applications. The Inter-Range Instrumentation Group (IRIG) set the standards for instrumentation tape recorders.

Instrumentation recorders were built to much more stringent standards than other tape recorders, and recorders that used direct, FM and PCM recording have been available.

On ¼-inch wide tape, there are typically 4 tracks, whereas on ½-inch tape there were 7, or sometimes even 14, tracks. On 1-inch tape, there were 14 or 28 tracks. Tape is usually wound on the reel with the recording surface facing towards the hub (the opposite of audio tape). Metal NAB reels were often used, for reels between 10.5 and 16-inches, but 7-inch plastic reels with cine spindle hubs have also been used.

Instrumentation recorders also used tape in cassette form, including systems that recorded onto S-VHS tape, and the Digital Instrumentation Recorder from Sony that used the SD1 cassette.

Instrumentation and data logging systems now use hard disks or flash memory for storage.

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Digital Data Storage (DDS) (1989 – 2007)

Digital Data Storage (DDS) was introduced in 1989, and used a version of Digital Audio Tape (DAT) for storing data.

DDS used helical scanning on magnetic tape, and stored between 1.3 GB in the first generation (DDS-1) and 36 GB uncompressed on the fifth generation (DAT 72) launched in 2003.

During its life, DDS competed against formats such as Linear Tape-Open (LTO), Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT), VXA, and Travan, and over 18 million DDS drives were sold.

Generally, DDS drives can read and write to media of one or perhaps two previous generations only, so DDS-4 drives cannot read or write from DDS-1 tapes. DDS drives cannot read or write to media from later generations.

Two later generations (DDS-160 and DDS-320) both use 8mm wide tape in a slightly thicker cartridge, whereas the first five generation of DDS used 3.81 mm tape (often labelled as 4mm DDS).

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 3obsolescence 3Whilst DDS drives are still available secondhand, a single drive cannot read more than three generations of DDS.

The earliest tapes are now nearly 30 years old


Memory Stick Micro (M2) (2006 – 2009)

Memory Stick Micro (M2) was the smallest form factor of the Sony Memory Stick family. It was introduced as a joint venture with SanDisk in 2006 and is just one-quarter of the size of the Memory Stick Duo. Typical uses include PDAs and mobile phones.

Adaptors were available to allow Memory Stick Micro cards to be used in Memory Stick and Memory Stick Duo slots, and Sony produced an M2 to USB adaptor.

Cards were available from 64 MB to 16 GB capacities.

In 2009, Sony announced that Sony Ericsson phones would use microSD cards instead of Memory Stick Micro, and by 2011, the Memory Stick Micro was no longer available on the Sony UK website.

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